Country enjoys more democracy today than available during previous govt.: General Musharraf


ISLAMABAD, Nov. 13 (APP)- Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf has said that Pakistan today had more democracy in substance than what existed in the previous government. In an interview with 'Al-Jazeera Television Qatar', he said, "I differentiate between label of democracy and essence and substance of democracy, and believe, we need democracy in substance rather than its label." He said, people in the West were demanding label of democracy, which "I assure, will be given as fast as possible." Return to democratic rule will not take too long, he said, adding that he was disappointed over the stress given to wearing of the mask of democracy instead of having essence of it. "I would ensure that we have essence of democracy which was non-existent during the previous government. They had label of democracy. I will ensure that we have essence of it," he added. Was there democracy at the grass-roots level, he asked and said that it certainly was not the case. The Chief Executive dismissed as absolutely baseless the impression that his take over was a pre-determined action. "It was just spontaneous and a counter-coup," he added. He said, during the previous democratically elected government's two and half year rule the situation in Pakistan had gone from bad to worse. People were seeing darkness all around with no light across the tunnel. "Economic conditions were terrible, provincial harmony and national integrity were being threatened and governance was extremely poor. So, these were the conditions that existed in Pakistan," he stated. To a question about his priorities, he said, "stablisation of economy is my number one priority."

"We have very poor econonmic conditions. We would like to stabiles the economy. Secondly, we need to strengthen national integration, because there was a degree of provincial disharmony in Pakistan. Thirdly, I would like to improve governance down to the grass-root level, and lastly, I will include accountability as part of the economy which is the demand of the whole nation, rather, every individual of the country," he added. To a question, Gen. Musharraf said, Pakistanis today have all the fundamental rights, better than those during the previous regime. He said, the President of the country and the judiciary was in place, the Press is totally free. He said, he would involve himself in the process of devolution of powers to the grass-roots level, which he intended to do immediately.

Asked about the so-called Islamic bomb, he said, to call the bomb Islamic is a misnomer. He said, we are proud of having the nuclear capability, which is absolutely in the interest of our own security. It's a bomb, it's a Pakistan's bomb, and itís not an Islamic bomb. We have assured the international community that all the checks and balances, which go along with it, will be adhered to. "We are examining the CTBT. We understand the FMCT. We have declared that there will be a total restraint. We have declared that there will be no proliferation of nuclear element," he said. About signing of the CTBT, he said, we are looking into it. We have to evolve a national consensus on it. We have to decide about as per wishes of the people of Pakistan. On relations with Iran, he said, we have to have close relations, they are our neighbours, and we have religious bonds with them. This relationship had its ups and downs on the Afghanistan front.

As far as strategic perception on Afghanistan is concerned, he said, both Pakistan and Iran have common view that peace must return to Afghanistan. In the matter of modalities, he said, this can be debated and discussed. We need to sit down in a brotherly manner and discuss the modalities of reaching that peace. Replying to a question about Kashmir, he said, "we want to resolve all issues with India and it is the main issue between the two countries. They will find me forthcoming if they are willing to resolve all issues including the issue of Kashmir." Pakistan welcomes any kind of mediation, he said, adding, it is India which is pressing for bilateralism in the issue. He said, bilateralism is a term that India has been using since the signing of Simla Accord. "Bilateralism is good in a sense that two countries sit and talk to each other but when the term is misused for avoiding the main issue, may be the third party involvement is necessary," he added.

Replying to another question about the huge foreign debt of US$ 32 billion against Pakistan, he said, "this is one of the biggest issues." He said, "Economy is our main concern. We have put together an excellent economic team that will help reduce this debt and steer the economy out of crisis. I have great conviction in the future of Pakistan and the potential of Pakistani people and also overseas Pakistanis. This issue will be resolved in the shortest possible time." Asked as to how does he see Pakistan in the new millennium, he said, first of all, my expectation is that we must enter the new millennium with dignity and honour. We are 130 million people and have all the potential to enter as a progressive nation. To a question if as an admirer of Kamal Ataturk he would take a leaf out of his book, he said, Ataturk is respected in Turkey. Every country has its own environment. Pakistan is not Turkey and Turkey cannot be Pakistan. I will go by the aspirations and compulsions of Pakistan. Kamal Ataturk did well in his own country and I will see what my country needs in the light of principles of the Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Replying to a question on the inclusion of a woman in the Federal Cabinet he said he is really concerned about women of Pakistan. I give importance to women because they are half of Pakistan. They must be given their real place. I have included a very competent lady in the Cabinet and have asked the Governors to include extremely competent women in their provincial governments and also induct ladies at the grassroots level. When asked if the army intervention was due to Kargil conflict, General Musharraf said, although this was a common charge, but "this is disinformation." "There was no disagreement between army and the previous government over the issue of Kargil or Kashmir. There never was a disagreement," he added.

Replying to another question as to why action against him was taken when he was out of the country, he said, "It's still an enigma to me. We had good relations. I was appointed by him (former premier) Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee a few days ago and that showed he was satisfied with me. At times I had offered him the support and assistance of army in the nation-building task. I even did not meet him after he gave me the additional charge of office of CJSC. He said, he would like to put in full use the economic resources and he was sure that economy will stabilise. "We will spend whatever amount is required to ensure our security. Our security concerns are vital and foremost." To a question as to the outcome of Kargil, he said, "It was a total success from military point of view and Indians know that very well. Army did not lose an inch of land on the Line of Control (LoC) and Pakistan Army inflicted five times more casualties on Indian army. It did tremendous damage to them. I hope that Kargil episode may lead to resolution of Kashmir issue because Indians have realised that greater issue of Kashmir bedevils the relations between the two countries and they must take into account the wishes of Kashmiri people. Indian side must have realised after paying such a huge price that Kashmir issue must be resolved now."

Asked as to how Kashmir issue will be resolved, General Musharraf said, "the attempts that were made previously were non-starters. They did not include the core issue of Kashmir. The Lahore Process was there and Kashmir was included in it but with a very milder tone. In practical upfront it were Indians who always put the Kashmir issue on the back burner. Kashmir led to three wars and the Kargil. Anything without Kashmir is a non-starter."

He said, he does not think nuclear weapons will ever be used in any conflict between the two countries. "Both countries realise the futility of the use of nuclear weapons. It is a Dilemma. Ask India that why did they explode nuclear devices first in 1974 and than in 1998. Our security concerns are permanent in both conventional and non-conventional fields," he added. Asked as to why he chose to visit Arab countries first, General Musharraf said, "The significance of these visits to Arab countries is clear. We have a very longstanding relationship with the Arab countries and I thought it was necessary to apprise them about the recent developments in Pakistan. I also wanted to meet the Pakistanis living in these countries and inform them about the latest situation and seek their support. Also, I wanted to further strengthen the relations." Asked about reaction of the US and the West on the take over, he said, "It was not hostile." "Sanctions were placed a long time before, after the nuclear explosions. I am glad on the response of US that they are concerned and trying to understand the situation. I am cognizant of their views," he said. He said, the Commonwealth reacted satisfactorily after they visited Pakistan. He said, their views changed in the wake of free exchange of views. In a meeting with the delegation, "I assured them that the country will return to democracy. They will see the true essence of democracy. It will not take very long. I am disappointed when people talk about democracy now. It was not existing during the previous government. There were elections but there was no democracy at grassroots level. People sitting in assemblies were not doing anything for the public."